Lining the corridor that leads into Michelangelo’s David are the four, incredible, Unfinished Slaves. They were commissioned by Pope Julius as part of a highly elaborate plan for his tomb, in 1505. However, Julius soon died, and the huge project was diminished in funding and scope several times over many years. The plans stopped and started, dragging on and on over the years. Michelangelo worked on the project intermittently, and produced only six figures of what was originally supposed to be thirty. Two more highly finished slaves, from his early work on the tomb, are at the Louvre. The four figures, at the Accademia, dramatically less finished, have been highly influential to legions of sculptors and other artists, because of the unique aesthetic they represent.
There is lot of reference material about these unfinished pieces – Awakening slave , the young slave, the bearded slave, the Captive slave, bound Slave and the Dying Slave. The bound slave is named after Atlas, the primordial Titan who held up the entire world on his shoulders.
Michelangelo often referred to the process of carving as one in which he discovers the form which is already imprisoned in the stone. He believed that his job was to release what was already there. It is also his belief that the human soul is a prisoner who strives to be released from its bodily form.